Devin Sper

The Problem is Palestine

Many years ago as a student at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, I sat with a group of Arab friends discussing politics over lunch. When I posed the question “How do you define a Palestinian?” they began arguing among themselves. They could offer no common answer other than the idea that a Palestinian opposes Israel.

The Palestinian national movement has always defined itself as Israel’s nemesis; It sees its struggle against Israel as a zero-sum game. Palestinians have reflexively opposed anything that helps Israel and supported anything that hurts her. The idea of Palestine, by definition, precludes a peaceful solution because it is predicated on the negation of Israel.

If the Palestinian movement were a genuine drive for national liberation, Israel would have a true negotiating partner. Unfortunately, the Palestinian national movement has always been nihilistic; the focus has never been on nation building, but rather on destroying the Jewish State. The more land and power given the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, the more violent their incitement against Israel, and the more radical their demands.

Conventional wisdom holds that the Palestinian issue lies at the heart of the Arab-Israeli conflict: solving the former is a prerequisite for ending the latter.  Actually acceptance of the Palestinian thesis precludes a solution, not only because it is based on false premises but because it is predicated on Israel’s destruction.

The Palestinian Authority is not simply asking for sovereignty over Hebron, East Jerusalem, and other cities in Judea and Samaria. It also demands the expulsion of the ancient Jewish communities of these areas. Palestinians do not merely claim rights in the Land of Israel; they claim exclusive rights while denying all Jewish rights and history in the land. This claim lies at the core of Palestinian national movement, and is the rock on which every effort at compromise has foundered.

During the Camp David peace talks Yasser Arafat astonished President Clinton by denying that a Jewish Temple ever stood on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount. In so doing, Arafat contradicted Jewish, Christian and Muslim scriptures and destroyed his credibility with President Clinton. Yet, for the Arabs to acknowledge the existence of a Jewish Temple in Jerusalem would be to acknowledge that a sovereign Jewish state existed long before their arrival. They would be forced to acknowledge Jews not as foreign occupiers in the Land of Israel, but the original native inhabitants. The Jewish presence in the land predates that of the Arabs by almost two millennia and the fiction of a Palestinian people by more than 30 centuries.

This is the reason Arabs destroy archeological and holy sites bearing witness to Jewish antiquity in the land of Israel. For example, when Joseph’s tomb was turned over to the Palestinian Authority in October 2007 they immediately set fire to it. That Joseph’s tomb is also a venerated Muslim holy site was less important than the goal of erasing evidence of Jewish roots in the land.

The Israeli left, along with much of the world, chose to ignore the fallacies of Palestinian mythology on the proposition that peace is more important than truth. This reasonable-sounding idea ultimately led not only to increasing world recognition of a Palestine as a state, but to its inevitable corollary: the de-legitimization of Israel. Things have now reached the point where the United Nations launches war crimes investigations each time Israel defends herself against Palestinian terror. The Palestinian Authority, which has never abandoned terror, is granted membership in the international criminal court and takes steps to indict Israel, the very country she seeks to annihilate.

Today the Palestinian Authority has abandoned even the pretense of land-for-peace in favor of an international campaign to delegitimize Israel and incite the murder of the Jews. The predictable result is not a decline, but rather an escalation, in the century-long Palestinian campaign of terror. Hamas has done nothing to improve the lot of the people of Gaza, but instead spends all its money and efforts preparing to launch another war against Israel. In the seven years since taking control of Gaza, Hamas has already launched three such wars.  What should be clear by now is that empowering the PLO and Hamas terrorist organizations with a state was a mistake of historic proportions.

Not surprisingly, land-for-peace has been largely discredited in the eyes of the Israeli public and abandoned by most Israeli politicians. In the current Israeli election campaign the left has abandoned their long standing label as “The Peace Camp” and now calls itself “The Zionist Camp.” Their current campaign ignores the Palestinian issue completely, seeking to focus attention on domestic matters.

The harsh truth is that peace requires that the myth of Palestine be debunked and the Palestinian Authority and Hamas defeated and dismantled. Bloodshed is inevitable, but it is entirely on the hands of those who promoted the PLO and Hamas as Israel’s partners in peace, remaining willfully blind to all evidence to the contrary. The grave error of handing state power to the PLO and Hamas only compounds itself the longer they remain in power, indoctrinating future generations with hate, and demonizing Israel on the world stage. The alternative – allowing them to continue in power – leads to even greater suffering. A solution to the Arab-Israel conflict can never be found within the context of Palestine. It is possible only once we cut this Gordian knot.

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About the Author
Devin Sper was born and raised in New York and lived in Israel for 10 years. He holds a degree in Jewish History from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and served in the Israel Defense Forces. Devin Sper is the author of The Future of Israel, winner of a 2005 GLYPH award.
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